The Priesthood Broadcast & Unintended Consequences

By: Guest
October 2, 2013

I didn’t see what the big deal was about wearing pants, until I saw the backlash.

When my Mormon feminist sisters decided to make their point by wearing pants to church, I was curious.  The method seemed amusing even, although I really didn’t understand what the expected outcome was.  If they felt comfortable worshiping in pants,  it seemed fine to me.  I couldn’t see how it would be a strike for equality, and I thought the fear and courage they expressed to be way over the top.  Come on, you’re just wearing pants!  I’ve seen brethren who should have been more self-conscious of their ridiculous bow ties (that would be all bowties, btw).  When I read about the blowback, I admit I was stunned.  Wearing pants certainly seemed to help the feminists identify their enemies, and it also won them much sympathy.   Obviously, some of my fellow saints had their priorities screwed up.  Today’s guest post is by Brian.  

Encouraged, feminists next campaigned to have women pray in General Conference.  Again, they were full of trepidation, courage, and solidarity.  Again I thought it was over the top.  In my ward, we’d had regular, run-of-the-mill sacrament meetings in which both prayers, all talks, and the music were all given by women, and I doubt most of the members even noticed.   Of course women should pray in General Conference, and I saw nothing wrong with drawing attention to the obvious.

Now they want to be admitted to the Priesthood Session of General Conference as prospective elders, and I have to admit to very conflicted feelings.  The purpose of the meeting is to train men and particularly young men to become valiant priesthood holders.  There’s no reason women couldn’t be admitted, unless they’re taking seats from men who are the specific target audience.  I would think the same would hold true for the General Relief Society meeting — men could be admitted, so long as they didn’t take seats from women.  Somehow, though, the Priesthood Session has up to now been presented to the public as a secretive, men-only meeting to which women (and the public at large) have been denied access; the fact that it was the only session not broadcast added credence to this view.  In response to the women’s anticipated action, the church announced that the session will be broadcast.

Letting women pray in Gen Conf was a no-brainer. I didn’t see why it hadn’t happened.

That’s where I got my first twinge.

Near as I can tell, the priesthood has two practical roles within the church:  the authority to perform ordinances, and the goad to prod men into full activity in the church.  The second role is dominant, if less often stated.  We can teach our Deacons and Teachers that they’ve been blessed with more authority than the pope, but the reality of it is, they can’t perform a single ordinance, and their priesthood responsibilities consist of ceremonial chores (e.g., preparing/passing the sacrament)  and menial labor (e.g., taking down chairs in the cultural hall after church).  Practically speaking, they can’t do anything the Beehives and Mia Maids couldn’t do, but they’ve been given duties.   In fact, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been taught about my “priesthood duty”:  my duty to collect fast offerings, to take the sacrament to the sick, to serve a mission, to lead my family in prayer, to bless my children,  etc.  Of all my priesthood duties, very few required any particular authority.  In terms of training men, it’s almost as though authority is just thrown in to add more duties.  And to add exclusivity and cohesion within families and wards – after all, my children, my wife, my ward are dependent on me to perform these priesthood duties.  Overall, I’d say the church’s training program for men has been remarkably effective, leading to male involvement and spirituality within the congregation that other Christian churches would envy.  I know many good, humble men in the church who became that way in big part because they try so hard to do their priesthood duty.  I love those men and want to be like them.  I want my sons to be like them.

Previously, the priesthood session wasn’t broadcast because it forced men and boys throughout the church to put on their suits and ties and make their way to chapels and stake centers on a Saturday night.  Why did we go?  Because it was our priesthood duty, and because we made the effort to be there, we were often blessed with more light and knowledge than we would have while watching at home, eating snacks and playing electronic games.  All those Young Men to whom it is my priesthood duty to offer a ride to the stake center are now going to tell me no thanks, they’ll watch it at home.  Something has been lost.  Not something significant, maybe, but something.

Should women be ordained? What else will be revealed for women in the coming years?

I don’t expect sympathy from feminists.  The hurt, frustration, and even anger they express far exceeds my little twinge, and to the extent I can, I try to understand those feelings.  I too feel there’s much more to be revealed for women than has been so far.  I look forward to that revelation for my wife and daughters and for what it will mean to the church at large.

But I can’t help wondering what will be lost next.  I’ve never been bothered by the women who attend Fathers and Sons, but it’s a different event if it’s a family campout.  I’ve never minded the women who attended stake priesthood mtg, and maybe it should be just another adult leadership meeting.  I’m personally not bothered by the specter of female bishops.  But I do believe the church would be hurt more by men losing their sense of priesthood duty than it would be helped by women gaining it.  Anybody who’s had an opportunity to observe our young men and young women know that taken collectively, they’re very different animals.   I’ve shared many of Nate Oman’s thoughts.

Worse, as faithful and believing as our feminists may be, I’m afraid their tactics may not lead to progress, but to conflict and backlash.  Having a group of pitiable women standing outside the conference center, shaming the church by their visible exclusion, isn’t good public image for the body of the church.  I suspect the church will change course and allow anyone with a ticket to enter, but ask that the tickets be left to men.  The media will trumpet a feminist victory, but entering against the request of our leaders will shame them in the eyes of their fellow saints.

I worry that my comments will be perceived as an attack on feminism or that I will be misunderstood and labelled as an opponent. Just to clarify my position:

  1. I’m not opposed to priesthood ordination of women, if that’s what God intends.  However, what I want from the church is light and knowledge from God, not the combined wisdom of the masses.  When I look back at all the changes within the church on topics big and small (polygamy, birth control, blacks, playing cards, prohibition, women and careers, divorce, ERA, Prop 8, cremation), I see church leadership following as often as leading, and I wonder how we know when we’ve overcome the biases of our gerontocracy, and when we’ve been given and lost the 116 pages.
  2. I am opposed to publicly attempting to shame the church.
  3. I believe men and women are complementary and that neither is complete without the other.  In fact, if they weren’t complementary, if they were essentially interchangeable, I believe that would mean they weren’t necessary to complete each other.
  4. Because I believe the sexes are different and complementary, I struggle to see the best course for “equality.”  My concern is whether individual needs are being met and happiness can be achieved for both.
  5. I believe there is much there is much that God has yet to reveal with regard to women, and that women, especially Young Women need to have equal opportunities to be bound to the church community through duty, more opportunities to lead, and more direct ceremonial participation within the church.
  6. I believe that fatherhood and motherhood are fundamental, eternal parts of our identity, and that men are currently given greater opportunity to develop their identities within the church than are women, and that this needs to change.
  7. I treat women as people and in no way consider myself superior to women by virtue of my sex.  Nor do I believe I’ve had to overcome anything taught to me in church to feel this way.
I have a wife and four daughters whom I love and respect very much.  I believe good fathers, husbands, and men in the church want women to achieve their full potential.  What’s the best way?
  • What changes, aside from ordination, would help give our Young Women and sisters what is lacking (more involvement, more voice, more ceremonial participation)?
  • Will you be attending Priesthood Session at the church or at home?  Will the women out there be tuning in or attending at ward buildings?
  • What do we lose when we eliminate gender-segregation?  Do we lose anything worth saving?
Discuss.

 

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38 Responses to The Priesthood Broadcast & Unintended Consequences

  1. ElZorillo on October 2, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    This reminds me of a humorous incident that occurred at BYU while I was there enrolled. At the time the dress code did not provide for women to wear slacks of any type–skirts and dresses only. A young lady was refused entry to the “testing center” because of her slacks–even though she was wearing a long overcoat. She proceeded to the restroom, removed the slacks, returned to the testing center where she was warmly welcomed, and proceeded to take the test “commando”. There was quite a writeup in the “Daily Universe”; and very shortly thereafter the code was revised–providing for sisters to wear slacks.

    That said and shared, I would not be in favor of a bunch of sisters showing up “au natural” to the priesthood session of conference.

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  2. The Other Clark on October 2, 2013 at 3:19 PM

    I’ve heard rumors that Sis. Burton will give a talk this weekend titled “Our Men are Incredible.” Consider that in RS meeting, the sister are constantly receiving talks on the need to do better visiting teaching and avoiding explicit romance novels “like the plague”, so clearly we’re on the road to removing sexism.

    Next, I will be forming a group of men to protest the policies that exclude men from the callings of Relief Society and Primary President. Also, we will overturn the policies that forbid all single men over the age of 26 from serving missions and over 30 as temple workers, and work to get the singular blessing extended to women in the temple initiatory extended to the brethren as well.

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  3. Jeff Spector on October 2, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    Often times, Intent speaks louder than the act itself. For example, women have been wear pants to Church for years. Sometimes they are guests or investigators. sometimes they are of a culture where pants are considered dressy and skirts and dresses are casual.

    We had women attend Priesthood meeting either to play for a special musical number or assist a husband who was ailing or invalid.

    So what was the intent of the wear pants movement or the Ordain Women attempt at GC?

    Will the Lord be grieved if those things happen, no. Will the truthfulness of the Gospel or Jesus as our Savior change? No

    So what is the difference? To me, it is a matter of respect. or lack of it. I know, many will say that isn’t so, but just think of the position the ushers at the CC will be in? they are in the middle of it and these women will be disrespecting them as a result. All in the name of protest. Yes, they’ll say it is not protest, but it is since hey already know they are normally not invited to that meeting and have been asked not to try to attend.

    It’s a shame really. The lack of respect we have for one another.

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  4. Dave K. on October 2, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    Guest (Brian?) – I also like Nate Oman’s thoughts. And while I am supporter of women’s ordination, I am also very sympathetic to your feelings that there should remain a space for just men. I love taking my boys on Father/Son campouts. I want those to continue. But just like we can have men-only campouts without decreeing that “only men can ever go camping,” we can only have men-only events and functions in the church without excluding women from ordination. There is simply no need to tie priesthood and “maleness” together.

    So may a suggest another blog post by someone (anyone)? In all of the turmoil surrounding OrdainWomen, I have yet to see any discussion of how we could extend priesthood to women and still carve out a unique space for men. Perhaps that is a valuable untapped theme that should be explored.

    Other Clark – I’m not sure if you’re kidding, but I would sign a petition to change church policies that discriminate against single brethren.

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  5. Casey on October 2, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    For the OP, I’m curious what you mean when you say that men and women are complementary–specifically, what criteria do you use to judge which categories fall under the men’s or women’s roles. Are these roles mean to be descriptive or prescriptive? If they’re descriptive, why don’t they actually apply universally (in other words, why is my wife more assertive and better with money than I am; seemingly far better suited to be the traditional “head” of a household)? If the roles are prescriptive, can you really meet individual needs working in a system that demands individuals fulfill certain roles regardless of an their natural affinity towards them? What about women who aren’t nurturing, or who can’t have or don’t want children; or men who aren’t or the primary providers, or who aren’t take-charge competitive-types?

    I don’t mean to come off sounding antagonistic; I actually liked this post even if I disagree with some of it. I just feel that people who advocate for complementarianism often either fail to explain it or define it as a long, politicized list of things that men and (mostly women) should or shouldn’t be doing. That’s not to accuse the OP of doing that; I was just hoping that since you argued so reasonably you’d help me understand where you’re coming from. I personally do feel my wife and I complement each other very well, which should the case for all relationships–I’m just reluctant to universalize any given relationship as a fixed standard to which all others should aspire to given how different we all are!

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  6. Howard on October 2, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    Very well written!

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  7. Exponent II April on October 2, 2013 at 6:26 PM

    I have no objection to occasional male-only or female-only spaces. After women are ordained, I would not object to continuing to have a woman’s organization for addressing women’s issues such as the Relief Society. However, I would want the Relief Society to be governed by women, not men. (You may have noticed that women never did have a meeting exclusive of men, as men preside over and give the keynotes at RS meetings.) Also, I would not object to having a parallel Men’s Auxiliary Organization.

    Ordain Women’s purpose in attending Priesthood Session this weekend is to show support for the ordination of women. We do not object to men’s meetings or women’s meetings; we object to the exclusion of women from priesthood authority.

    So I guess you are right on two counts; disrupting male bonding was not OW’s intended purpose and as a feminist, I don’t feel bad if you feel like you can’t bond with the guys if your session is available on TV or even if you may see women at the session. Men still exclusively run the meeting. Women have never had that.

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  8. NewlyHousewife on October 2, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    I feel like you’re conflating male-bonding with priesthood.

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  9. Kris on October 2, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    The men in our family get dressed up after the second session of Conference on Saturday and go out to eat together, before Priesthood meeting. The young boys can’t wait to become twelve so they can go along. We have had a young inactive man go along. He expressed it meant a great deal to him. I, too, feel that something has been lost. Our family will try to continue this most important tradition. I hope it all works out, especially for the young men.

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  10. Justin on October 3, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    The men in our family get dressed up after the second session of Conference on Saturday and go out to eat together, before Priesthood meeting. The young boys can’t wait to become twelve so they can go along.

    I don’t understand how conferring priesthood on women and/or allowing them to attend the session broadcast changes this in any way. Like — if they’re there, it messes up the vibe, or what? If your sons <12 anxiously "can't wait" to join — what do you think of daughters of anything feel, knowing that they'll never be able to join.

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  11. Justin on October 3, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    Oops — that last sentence doesn’t make any sense — it should read something like:

    … what do you think daughters feel, knowing that they’ll never be able to join.

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  12. Martin on October 3, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    I’m sad if the OP can be reduced to a plea to protect male bonding from feminist incursion. I think there’s a lot more to it than that, but I obviously didn’t elucidate as i wished I could have.

    Casey – i have a fair number of thoughts with respect to gender complementarity (yes, I know that’s not a word, but Neylan McBain at fmh used it publicly before I did!), and when I get a chance to write them up, I’ll submit them to the powers that be to see if they’re worth posting.

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  13. Ralph on October 3, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    Justin. / probably the same way my sons feel knowing they will never join their mother and sisters when they attend the annual YW and RS broadcasts.

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  14. Mossbloom on October 3, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    I honestly think that if women were ordained, the Relief Society could become more powerful and suited to women’s needs, and a mirroring Men’s Society could be built up that could suit the unique needs of men. The Relief Society is supposed to be the largest women’s organization in the world. So why haven’t they done any research on the benefits of breastfeeding and how to support women in this difficult part of motherhood? A men’s society could focus on men’s health and fatherhood. If the burden of priesthood leadership was shared, men could take more time to focus on their own needs that aren’t necessarily being met. If women had more autonomy, they could consider issues that are so important, but are often neglected. My husband works hard and then has a crazy busy calling he has to focus on instead of being home. I’m a SAHM with kids in school. If I had the crazy busy calling, I could take care of a lot of things during the day, and then attend meetings in the evening, giving him the chance to spend some quality time with his daughters. He often goes an entire day without seeing them once.

    The focus for what would happen if men didn’t have sole responsibility for the priesthood is always on what would be lost. Why do we have to assume the worst? Maybe we should consider the things that could be gained. Women’s ordination isn’t just about women. They don’t want it just so they can have power. It’s about strengthening the Church. Not just the women, but the Church as a whole. Diversity in leadership is incredibly important. The things that men and women can accomplish together are greater than what they can do separately. And that is because they ARE different from each other.

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  15. anon on October 3, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    So essentially, they are trying to attend an all men’s meeting to enable change to stop the men from attending their women’s meeting.

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  16. Howard on October 3, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Women’s ordination isn’t just about women…It’s about strengthening the Church…The things that men and women can accomplish together are greater than what they can do separately. Very well said! Especially given the examples offered.

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  17. Justin on October 3, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    Justin. / probably the same way my sons feel knowing they will never join their mother and sisters when they attend the annual YW and RS broadcasts.

    Lol. Then why aren’t men lining-up to attempt to attend the YW/RS broadcast? Are we just less “prone to complain” when compared to the women? … Oh yeah — or is it perhaps because men already attend/key-note speak at those meetings.

    Men attend the meetings of and supervise women — but there’s never an equal corollary with women to the men. I think that’s the problem people want to discuss.

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  18. hawkgrrrl on October 3, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    anon: While I see where you are saying that, from what I’ve read, the OW movement actually wants women to be ordained to the PH, so the meeting is just a symbol of that desire. Women are promised in the temple to be made priestesses at a future date, depending on faithfulness. We allow prospective elders to attend the PH session, so why not females who are likewise prospective elders. What they’ve done is they’ve exposed the truth of the matter: that PH has become shorthand for “men” in the church and that gender segregation excludes women for no real reason. Let’s at least be intentional and consistent in our rhetoric. I’m not sure people are capable of doing that. So far, I don’t think so.

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  19. Phil on October 3, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Life lesson here
    Feminists don’t want equality, they want supremacy.

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  20. Ralph on October 3, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    We’ve had sisters sit in the chapel and listen to the the PH broadcast. No one got up and asked them to leave. Men may preside at the general YW and RS broadcasts. But I think that’s because we sustain the president of the church as one having all keys. He presides at all sessions of conference, too. No big deal.

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  21. brjones on October 3, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    And it’s Phil by a nose! Frankly, I’m surprised it took 19 comments.

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  22. brjones on October 3, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    Don’t forget the gays, Phil. And the blacks. The gays and the blacks. They also want supremacy, not equality.

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  23. JayJay on October 3, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    I’m surprised no one mentioned the fact that is wasn’t the feminists who made the change to show the priesthood session on tv! The church decided to do that. You can’t blame the feminists, unless you think the church isn’t led by God and they just cave to social pressure. . .

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  24. hawkgrrrl on October 3, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    JayJay, I don’t think the church is even pretending it wasn’t in response to Ordain Women. It clearly was. I think it’s probably going too far to call it caving to social pressure. It’s not much of a win for the OW camp.

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  25. KT on October 3, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    #5 “I personally do feel my wife and I complement each other very well, which should the case for all relationships–I’m just reluctant to universalize any given relationship as a fixed standard to which all others should aspire to given how different we all are!”

    Totally agree. Two people in a relationship should indeed compliment each other for it to work well. I am also very reluctant, basically bordering on refusal, to universalize any given individual person, or relationship. We are all different.

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  26. Chino Blanco on October 3, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    Tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 4), starting at 4 PM MDT, r/mormon will be hosting an AMA with one of the organizers of Ordain Women. You are personally invited to bring your questions and get the inside scoop before OW’s direct action scheduled for the following day.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/mormon

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  27. Drell on October 3, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    Phil, Feminists don’t want supremacy, they want equality. It is men who support patriarchy that want supremacy, otherwise why do you feel so threatened?

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  28. Phil on October 4, 2013 at 6:34 AM

    Br jones Your comments come across as very smug everyone has their own opinion mocking someone doesn’t change that

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  29. Phil on October 4, 2013 at 7:43 AM

    Drell do some research

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  30. JayJay on October 4, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    hawkgrrrl, I agree that it isn’t much of a win for OW. And I also think it was in response to the movement. What I meant was that if you believe the church makes decisions based on what God wants them to do, then this change is what God wants them to do and is not something to “blame” the feminists for like the OP seems to be lamenting. If OW was a catalyst for this small change, it seems to show that they may be on the right track.

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  31. CG on October 4, 2013 at 4:32 PM

    I watched the Priesthood session live online last October. I don’t know why or how everyone is saying this is the first live streaming of the broadcast…

    Also, it is easy for men, who have the authority of the priesthood, to have an opinion on this, or any matter. They, after all, are rats guarding the cheese, doling it out to the mice as they see fit.

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  32. Phil on October 4, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    I am extremely glad that a bunch of in-your-face feminists are not going to be allowed into the general priesthood meeting

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  33. Phil on October 4, 2013 at 5:23 PM

    Neylan Mcbaine on Fmh talks about preserving women’s faces but here they want to invade Men’s space

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  34. Howard on October 4, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    Phil apparently prefers feminists who know their place.

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  35. Drell on October 4, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    I’ve done my research thank you Phil. I think you need to do some. And tell me why you feel so threatened by feminists. Phil, women’s spaces are invaded by men. Women don’t get to meet with just women, we have men in pretty much all of our meetings. I’d be happy for men to have their own meetings if men would let women have theirs.

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  36. hawkgrrrl on October 4, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    Phil – what the hell?? Jackass.

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  37. Jenna on October 4, 2013 at 10:16 PM

    I agree with a lot of what you said about using priesthood as a way to get men to participate in the religious community. I don’t even know if I want priesthood, but I want men to stop using the priesthood as a way to control women. I want some female only space. I want my daughter to be spared the experience of wearing shorts and a t-shirt and a one piece at girls camp, like I had to, because the priesthood felt the need to supervise the women there, and bring their male gaze. I want modesty rhetoric to die a quick death. I want women to discuss their sexual conduct in a room with another woman, instead of feeling like a man can ask her any intimate question because he has authority over her. I keep hearing woman don’t need the priesthood, we already have our own feminine gifts. It is time for men to step back and give women some private gendered spaces. I think this is the only way you can ask with a straight face to keep yours.

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  38. Stephen M (Ethesis) on October 5, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    I want D&C 121 to be fully embraced.

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